After a year and a half of abnormal—remote learning, Zoom school, digital assignment submissions, and parents posing as teachers—do we even remember what a normal school day looks like?

Being the head of an elementary school in San Francisco, I find myself wondering if I will recognize my school come September. My students have grown. Their families have changed. Our methodologies and the way educators approach curriculum has evolved.

Will I feel like a stranger in my own home?

I’ve watched some of my students return to campus in a hybrid capacity, and they seem to be adjusting just fine. They are thrilled to see their friends and classmates, eager to jump back into learning from their teachers in-person, bounding out of car doors and into the school building each day with a glee that feels markedly foreign. Not forced or contrived—quite genuine, in fact. But unrecognizable, nonetheless.

Gone is the pang of apathy.

Absent is the lethargy of routine.

Completely devoid of monotony, there is an electric current of engagement that is palpable, almost tangible. To feel emotions in the tactile versus the transparent is giving me new life as an educator.

Will this continue? I, for one, don’t necessarily want my pre-pandemic normal back. I like this renewed invigoration for learning, community, and the appreciation for being in one another’s company. And, if the pandemic is responsible for being a catalyst of this change in education especially, then I tip my hat and say “thank you.”

Lesson learned.

How can we bottle up this gratitude, appreciation, and resetting of the attitude scales and guarantee its presence in the Fall?

Step One: Celebrate all that your child (and, you) have overcome in the past 15 months. Reflect and recount the obstacles triumphed and the valuable lessons learned. Help your student embed in their mindset “I can do hard things” because the past year has been really hard. So, in order to establish the resilience that we want to perpetuate into the Fall and beyond, create that baseline of pride in your child now. And, help them to find the silver lining in what they have learned and accomplished over the past year—because there are so many milestones!

Step Two: Stem that summer slide with daily academic engagement. Everyone needs a break after this year, but one way to keep your child positive about coming back to school is to help them not lose all of the knowledge they acquired this year. The more secure kids feel in knowing what they need to start next year off on a strong foot, the more excited and confident they will be to walk into school each day.

Families can encourage kids to read for 30 minutes, play word games, or practice fractions while baking cookies. They also might have summer assignments given to them by their teachers. No? Ask! Teachers love nothing more than to collaborate with parents/guardians in keeping their students engaged.

Step Three: Start getting back into routine early. Everyone loves to spend the summer sleeping in and staving off the alarm clock. But, once the calendar creeps into August, start gently reintroducing the school schedule.

Have a set breakfast time in the morning to start the day strong. Make a family pact around everyone being up by a certain time, and scale it back each week so on that first day of in-person learning, it’s not a shock to the system. Drive to school a few times to get a handle on how traffic has changed post-pandemic so that everyone knows exactly when the car needs to be locked and loaded to arrive to school on-time. Harried means haphazard which leaves everyone unhappy.

I am looking forward to a not normal start of the 2021-22 school year, which hopefully involves a lot of excitement and engagement from students, teachers, and parents. I would love to see the gratitude towards educators and the deep appreciation for learning inside a classroom continue throughout the next academic year.